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Earth Structures and the Earth's Interior

Introduction
In order to understand the structure we find near the
surface of the earth, we must understand the interior of
the earth and its gross structure. Much of the what we
know, or think we know, about the structure of the earth
is related to indirect observations we have made that
help us make hypotheses about it. The structure of the
earth appears to unique, at least within our solar
system and may be related to the way we believe the
earth formed.
Evidence about the Interior Structure of the Earth
The evidence for the structure of the Earth's interior comes from three sources;
gravity data, seismic data, and magnetic data.
The Gravity data is a little more straight
forward. The surface rocks on the earth, in
fact the entire crust, appears to have a
density of about 2.7 gm/cc. The Earth's
mass suggest an average density of about
7.0gm/cc. Thus the interior of the earth
must be denser.

The magnetic data is a little more complex


than the gravity data. WE know that the
earth has a dipole magnetic field with a
north and south magnetic pole. We also
know that throughout history the magnetic
poles have reversed.

The reversal in magnetic fields is frozen


into the oceanic crust of the earth.
Structures on the Surface of the Earth
In order to understand the structures on the surface of the earth, it is important to
examine the ways in hitch rocks react to the loads and stresses placed on them.
Rocks respond to stress by deformation, which is the change in shape and volume
of a rock under load. Rocks behave either by brittle deformation and fracture, or by
ductile deformation and flow.

The structures we observe on the surface of the earth are a reflection of either
brittle fracture of ductile flow. To examine rock deformation in more detail, click the
link below.
Deformation

Stress and Deformation


The way in which a rock deforms and a structure is created is a function of a
number of factors. These include the type of stress applied, the temperature and
pressure under which the rock is deformed, and the type of rock.

Pressure and temperature increase as you move down in the earth. The rate of
increase is roughly 30 degrees centigrade per kilometer and 5000 psi per kilometer
of depth. This trend is shown below. At the surface of the earth (lo P and T) rocks
are brittle. The deeper you move into the earth (increasing P and T), the more
ductile rocks become.

Another important factor is the stress state, or the manner in which the load is
applied to the rock. There are three different types of stress states; Compression,
tension, and shear.

The final parameter affecting rock deformation is


the type of rock or earth material being deformed.
Certain rocks, like granite are much stronger than
others, like limestone.

To see how all of these parameters affect the


deformation of earth materials, click the link
below.
Rock Deformation

Faults/Brittle Earth Structures


There are four types of faults, each corresponding to the stress state that produces
it. The types of faults are shown below. For the purposes of this discussion we will
treat strike slip and oblique slip faults as one.

Reverse Faults

Reverse faults are


caused by
compresional stresses,
and are often found at
convergent plate
boundaries. The
formation of a reverse
fault is shown in the
movie link below.
Normal Faults

Normal faults are caused by tension or extension and are often found at divergent
boundaries. The formation of a normal fault is shown in the movie link below.

Normal Fault

Strike-Slip Faults

Strike-slip faults are caused by shear stress and are often found at oblique-slip or
transform boundaries. The formation of a strike-slip fault is shown in the movie link
below.

Strike-slip Fault
Folds/Ductile Earth Structures
When rocks are
buried at depth,
and are subject to
high pressure and
temperature, they
tend to flow instead
of fracture. The
resulting stucture
is usually a fold.
The formation and
geometry of a fold
are shown in the
link and figure
below.

Fold
To understand folding geometry we must also understand rock orientation. We
define the orientation of rock beds in terms of their strike and dip.

The strike
is the
orientation
of the line
of

intersection between the


horizontal plane and the rock
bed. The dip is the angle that
the bed makes with horizontal,
measured in the vertical plane,
in the direction prependicular to the strike.

There are a variety of different styles of folding. Open folding is shown below in the
gently buckled and bent bedding of the rock outcrops in the image.
Folding may also be tight as is the case with the isoclinal folds shown in the image
below. In isoclinal folds the limbs and axial plane are parallel.

In overturned folds
the axial plane and
one limb dip in one
direction and the
other limb is usually
close to vertical, as
shown in the image
below.
In Recumbent folds the axial plane is horozontal, as shown in the image below.